Plantronics Maintains Leadership Through Visionary Innovation

Mar 07, 2016

Plantronics Maintains Leadership Through Visionary Innovation

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For those who know me well, I’ve been tracking the professional headset market for more than nine consecutive years. Frost & Sullivan is one of few analyst firms to keep a close eye on this growing and rapidly evolving market.  As many of you, I’ve been witnessing how headsets transformed themselves from a mere accessory to a full-fledged enterprise communications endpoint.

Professional headsets have changed in form factor much more than any other enterprise device. With the rise of mobility, professional headsets responded with cordless headsets. With the evolution of unified communications, professional headsets responded with UC-enabled headsets. With the proliferation of multiple communications endpoints, professional headsets became the glue offering multi-modal capabilities (connecting the desk phone, the mobile phone, and PC communications in a single device). With the emergence of contextual intelligence, headsets incorporated smart sensors enabling an improved user experience.  Finally, with the growth of Gen Y workers and the evolution of open workspaces, vendors, such as Plantronics, responded with advanced noise cancelling headsets that also act as headphones for multimedia consumption. Today, the technologies incorporated in a headset are transforming the way we work, having a powerful impact on our daily productivity.

Throughout the years, Plantronics, the undisputed leader in the professional headset market, has demonstrated the ability to not only identify, prioritize, and pursue emerging growth opportunities, but to also lead the market in terms of industry innovation.  With $865 million revenue in FY2015, the firm invests nearly 10 percent of its revenues in research and development (R&D). Putting customers at the centre stage of its innovation, Plantronics continues to demonstrate its ability to consistently identify, prioritize, and pursue untapped market needs, anticipating users’ requirements as they evolve over the years.

Plantronics’ current strategies focus on what the company calls three main innovation waves: “Tame Communications Chaos”, “In the Zone”, and “Smarter Customer Interactions”.

Plantronics has identified that an individual manages on average 7 communications devices and gets interrupted about 56 times a day.  To address the new challenging environment, the new series of Plantronics’ professional headsets is built with the purpose of helping users stay productive in the chaos. “Taming the  communications chaos” is not only achieved by allowing headsets to provide simple and functional connectivity to all communications devices and applications  (e.g., multi-device interoperability, plug-and-play connectivity, intuitive call management,  ), but also by creating devices that intelligently adjust to both the users’ working environment and his/her daily functions. Moving forward, the company is looking to provide information such as headset/device usage, near/far speech reporting, headset battery status, QoS predictive failure, acoustic diagnostics, and density sensing heat mapping to help business decision-makers better understand and manage the users’ work environment.  

Future Plantronics headsets may also be capable of analyzing user’s work behavior in order to improve his/her daily business processes. Sending messaging alerts about upcoming meetings, advising about co-workers’ availability, providing communications tools usage metrics or pointing at tasks that need the user’s immediate attention are some of the capabilities that Plantronics is exploring in its quest to improve worker productivity.  The “Tame the Communications Chaos” concept also recognizes trends such as hosted/cloud communications and the popularity of OPEX subscription models. The vendor has launched subscription-based services to allow businesses to acquire headsets on a pay-per-month model, helping them to avoid up-front capital expenses related to large headset purchases. The pay-per-month model is also providing many channel partners with a new tool to encourage more businesses to consider purchasing and deploying professional headsets. 

“In the Zone” is another key concept in Plantronics’ strategic direction.  New open-space, “cubicle-less” workplace designs intended to promote collective innovation, collaboration, and increased productivity are also presenting certain challenges to business users. While the idea of open workspaces is gaining popularity among companies looking to foster greater innovation and collaboration among their employees, noise distractions, lack of privacy, and background noise are some of the main challenges within these new environments.  Different studies suggest that, if an employee is interrupted and pulled out of his/her concentration zone, it might take him/her from six minutes to a half an hour to get back to the task. With the “In the Zone” concept, Plantronics is using its sound and acoustics expertise to develop products and technologies that allow the users to selectively block distractions, eliminate distractions of nearby conversations, enhance productivity, and personalize the user experience.

Last but not least, Plantronics will also be focusing on fostering “Smarter Customer Interactions”, including efforts to provide contact centers with smarter call routing capabilities (Plantronics Smart QD), to report on an extremely loud audio experience (Plantronics Acoustic Event Capture) , gather key analytical data about customer interactions, and diagnose headsets health to help pinpoint audio degradation.  The main aim of Plantronics evolving contact center solution features and capabilities is to create efficient connections among customers, brand representatives, and their organizations.

Over the years, Plantronics has successfully led in the market with the concept of “one headset does not fill all”. As such, the vendor has relentlessly analyzed the behavior and environments of business users in order to identify their evolving communications needs. Plantronics’ wide variety of product choices and its continuous investment in R&D are two of the company’s strongest competitive advantages in the market.   

 


Mohamed Alaa Saayed

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